Guatemala

At a glance:

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  • - Electricity:  120v/60hz
  • - Best Time To Go:  November to May
  • - Money:  Quetzal
  • - Elevation:  1,500 meters

About Guatemala:

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  • Guatemala is the northernmost country in Central America. The country is most famous for its indigenous culture, which covers over 60% of the country’s population and the fascinating history of Mayan civilization. There is also a marvelous colonial city which is UNESCO patrimony, archeology sites, hidden boutique hotels, romantic restaurants, lakes, rivers, Sail Fishing, Golf and fantastic people.
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  • As a country, Guatemala is strategically located with access to two oceans, the Yucatan Peninsula, the Maya Riviera, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. Guatemala has a variety of biological and cultural attractions of its own, making it a magical place where you can have a close encounter with nature, the living Mayan Culture, fascinating archeological temples and colonial architecture.
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Visas:

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  • Citizens of the US, Canada, EU countries, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Japan are among those who do not need a visa for tourist visits to Guatemala. On entry into Guatemala you will normally be given a 90-day.






Getting There

At a glance:

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  • Traveling to Guatemala from the US and Canada is quite easy. Even though there are two International Airports in Guatemala, all commercial flights come in to La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City (GUA) and a few international and regional airlines fly directly into Flores Airport (FRS) near Tikal.

The Major Ailines:

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  • From North America — American Airlines, Copa, Delta, Avianca Taca, Iberia, Mexicana, Spirit, and United all have regular flights from several US, Mexico, and Central American hub cities. Presently, there are no direct flights from Canada to Guatemala, so Canadians will have to take a connecting flight via the United States.
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  • From the U.K. & Europe — There are no direct flights to Guatemala from the U.K., although Iberia does have a direct flight from Madrid. Otherwise, you will have to fly via the US, Mexico or Central American hub city and connect with one of the airlines mentioned above.
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  • From Australia & New Zealand — To get to Guatemala from Australia or New Zealand, you’ll first have to fly to Los Angeles or some other US hub city, where you can connect with one of the airlines mentioned above.
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By Land:

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  • Border with Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. There are regular bus services. In terms of travel time and convenience, it’s always better to get a direct bus rather than one that stops along the way. By country, these are the main border crossings:
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  • From Mexico, the principal border crossing is at La Mesilla, north of Huehuetenango.
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  • From Honduras, the main border crossing is at El Florido, on the route from Copán.
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  • From Salvador, the main border crossing is at San Cristobal, along the Pan-American Highway.
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  • From Belize, the main border crossing is at Melchor de Mencos, in the Petén district.
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Entry & Exit Formalities

At a glance:

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  • When you enter Guatemala – by land, air, sea or river – you should simply have to fill out straightforward immigration and customs forms. In the normal course of things you should not have to pay a cent.
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  • However, immigration officials sometimes request unofficial fees from travelers. To determine whether these are legitimate, you can ask for un recibo (a receipt). You may find that the fee is dropped. When in doubt, try to observe what, if anything, other travelers are paying before it's your turn (Q10 is the standard, nonstandard fee).
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  • To enter Guatemala, you need a valid passport.
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Customs Regulations:

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  • Normally customs officers won't look seriously in your luggage and may not look at all. Guatemala restricts import/export of pretty much the same things as everybody else (weapons, drugs, large amounts of cash, etc).
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Visas:

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  • In August of 2006 Guatemala joined the Centro America 4 (CA-4) trading agreement with Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Designed to facilitate the movement of people and goods around the region, it has one major effect on foreign visitors – upon entry to the CA-4 region, travelers are given a 90-day stay for the entire region. You can get this extended once, for an additional 90 days, for around Q120. The exact requirements change with each government, but just for kicks, here's how it was working at the time of writing: you needed to go to the Departamento de Extranjería, with all of the following:
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  • - One black and white passport-sized photo on matte paper
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  • - A valid passport
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  • - Two photocopies of the first page of your passport and one of the page where your entry visa was stamped
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  • - A credit card with a photocopy of both of its sides (or photocopy of US$400 worth of travelers' checks)
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  • - A ticket out of the country or proof of flight reservation (on Travel Agency letterhead, signed and sealed by a Travel Agent)
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  • Extensions can take up to a week to process, but this period is also very flexible – it's worth asking about before you start the process.
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  • Citizens of some Eastern European countries are among those who do need visas to visit Guatemala. Enquire at a Guatemalan embassy well in advance of travel.
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  • Visa regulations are subject to change – it's always worth checking with a Guatemalan embassy before you go.
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  • If you have been in the CA-4 for your original 90 days and a 90-day extension, you must leave the region for 72 hours (Belize and Mexico are the most obvious, easiest options), after which you can return to the region to start all over again. Some foreigners have been repeating this cycle for years.
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Health

Before You Go:

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  • Staying healthy in Guatemala involves some common-sense precautions and a few destination-specific ones.
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  • Step number one would be getting the recommended vaccines. Discuss these with your doctor, but the vaccines that are usually recommended for travel to Central America are hepatitis A & B and typhoid. If you are planning to spend time handling animals or exploring caves, consider getting vaccinated for rabies.
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  • Larger towns have both public (cheap, with long waiting times) and private (expensive, but faster) hospitals, often with doctors who speak at least a little English. In smaller towns there will be a health clinic and in villages there is usually a doctor. Guatemala City naturally has the best range of health services in the country.
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  • Health care is relatively cheap in Guatemala (around Q25 for a standard doctor’s consultation). Despite low costs, it is generally recommended that travelers to Guatemala take out travel insurance, which almost always covers medical costs. Check your policy carefully to see what is and is not covered before buying.
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  • While 'medical tourism' is taking off in Guatemala (dentistry, for example, is a serious bargain compared to what you will pay elsewhere), if you have a serious complaint that does not require immediate attention, consider returning to your country to get treated.
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Mosquitos:

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  • Mosquitoes can transmit two serious diseases – malaria and dengue fever. Malaria tablets are available and recommended if you are planning to travel in rural areas at altitudes lower than 1500m, especially in the rainy season (June to November). It’s worth noting that there is no malaria risk in Antigua or around Lake Atitlán. The best prevention against mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid getting bitten. In high-risk areas this means a DEET-based insect repellent (bring one from home), long sleeves and pant legs, avoiding being outside around sunrise and sunset and checking window screens and mosquito nets in hotel rooms for holes where mosquitoes can enter.
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Healthy Eating:

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  • By far the most common health issue that travelers to Guatemala experience is stomach-related. This can range from serious diseases like cholera to simple cases of diarrhea. Watch what you eat, drink and generally put in your mouth. Here are a few simple guidelines to keep you out of the bathroom and on the road:
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  • - Wash your hands thoroughly before eating or touching your face.
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  • - Eat only in places that appear to be clean (conditions in the dining room are sometimes a good indicator of what’s going on in the kitchen).
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  • - To ensure the food you eat is fresh and freshly cooked, eat only in busy places around mealtimes.
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  • - Peel, cook or disinfect fruits and vegetables.
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  • - Be very selective when it comes to street food.
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  • - Avoid tap water unless it has been boiled thoroughly or disinfected. Ice in more expensive restaurants is made from purified water, but order drinks without it if you want to be really cautious.
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  • - If you do get sick and it lasts longer than a few days, take a stool sample to the laboratory (even the smallest towns have them) for analysis. You’ll get a possibly alarming readout of exactly what kinds of bugs you have. Any pharmacist will be able use the readout to prescribe the appropriate medicine.
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Weather

Low Season:

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  • - April to September
  • - Average Temperature: 21 degrees celcius
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  • Prices drop, crowds thin out at archaeological sites, and booking accommodation is rarely necessary. Daily afternoon rains can make traveling chilly in the highlands and muddy in the jungle.
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Shoulder:

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  • - October to November
  • - Average Temperature: 18 degrees celcius
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  • Rains begin to ease up, but October is peak hurricane season. Mild temperatures and clear days make this a good time to be traveling and hiking in the highlands.
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High Season:

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  • - December to April
  • - Average Temperature: 17 degrees celcius
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  • Around key times (Christmas, New Year, Easter) hotel prices can be at their highest. Accommodation should be booked well in advance for Easter in Antigua.
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What to Pack

At a glance:

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  • When visiting Guatemala you want to enjoy exploring the country. It is best to be prepared for everything. Pack accordingly to your requirements and choose culturally appropriate clothing. Guatemalan people are modest in dress and are not used to showing too much skin. Avoid short shorts or showing lots of skin. If you don’t want to attract unwanted attention we advice to dress conservative.
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Foot Wear:

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  • Bring comfy shoes. Specially for Antigua since it’s a cobble stone streets. Avoid the high heals even when going out for dinner.
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Sunscreen:

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  • Specially in Atitlan & Antigua. These two towns are located in high altitude and you should be extra careful if you have sensible skin.
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What should I wear:

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  • Guatemala City, Antigua and Atitlan are destinations located in relative high altitudes. Here you may wear spring clothing and a sweater during November through February. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended in all destinations, specially in Antigua with the cobble stone streets. At archaeological sites, beaches and rainforest areas light colored, lightweight clothing. Rain is expected from March – October so please bring adequate gear.
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Zip Lock Bags:

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  • Zip lock bags are useful to keep cameras and cell phones dry in case it rains.
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Mosquito Repellent:

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  • Tikal is located in the middle of a dense jungle. Mosquito Repellent is necessary especially in rainy season.
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Eye Wear:

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  • All through November – March the sun is super strong. Don’t forget your sunglasses. As well as if you wear contact lenses. Lens lubricant is available in most drug stores, except in remote villages.
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Insurance:

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  • Please make sure you read your policy carefully and how to handle a situation if any emergency occurs.
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Water Bottle:

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  • It is strongly recommended not to drink from the tab when in Guatemala. If you wish to be a responsible traveler, bring your water bottle to refill it. Most of the restaurants & Hotels will re-fill your bottle for free.
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Quetzaltenango

Quetzaltenango, also commonly known by its indigenous name, Xelajú [ʃelaˈχu], or more commonly, Xela [ˈʃela], is the second largest city of Guatemala.

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Monterrico

The town of Monterrico is situated on the Pacific coast of Guatemala in the departament of Santa Rosa.

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Rio Dulce

Dulce River (Spanish: Río Dulce, or "Sweet River") is a river in Guatemala, completely contained within the department of Izabal.

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Peten

The area of Peten is the largest department of Guatemala, occupies about a third of Guatemala but contains over three per cent of its population.

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Tecpan Iximche

Tecpan is the mid point between Guatemala City/Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

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Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango, located about 140 km of Guatemala City, is home to what is surely the most colorful native market in North and Central America, perhaps in all the Americas.

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Guatemala City

Guatemala’s capital city is the most modern and cosmopolitan city in Central America.

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Tikal

Declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Tikal National Park shelters the remains of one of the largest and most important cities in the Pre-Hispanic history of the Maya Civilization as well as 550 square kilometers of exuberant rainforest, home to a great diversity of flora and fauna.

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Lake Atitlan

With three stunning volcanoes rising out of its emerald surface, Lake Atitlán is located 144km west of Guatemala City.

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Antigua Guatemala

Antigua is among the world’s best conserved colonial cities in the Americas.

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